Fiduciary’s a word Producers like to throw around as much as lawyers. But for Producers, it’s all about the way it sounds coming out of an actor’s mouth. In a scene, the lawyer takes the private dick aside and says something like, You must remember the fiduciary nature of your relationship with the client. That’s when the private dick goes kind of slack jawed and stares at the coatrack, and the director shouts, Cut—Print it!
My point, I guess, is that it’s a cliché. But just like the private dick, it’s a cliché we tolerate because it makes the movie going public comfortable. There’s a lot of noise at writing school about avoiding clichés, but the racket quiets down once a writer starts working for dough. Because that’s when a guy comes to realise that thematic arcs and subliminal mysticism don’t pay the light bill. It’s the cringe-worthy little chestnuts that do.
I put the Producer’s memo endorsing the word fiduciary on the spike, and looked out the window. It was the first day of spring, all chickadees and daffodils. Another goddam cliché. A guy couldn’t turn round without stepping on one.
The script I was finishing was a dog. Just what they’d asked for. It would run right after the newsreel on double feature night, and be forgotten by intermission. I could probably deliver it by Tuesday, ahead of schedule. Then I could binge drink for a week and have the keys on my typewriter oiled and rotated.
There was just one more small but necessary element to the screenplay that was missing. The Noble Prostitute, Gladys, she needed her soliloquy. Something she could say before they took her away, for shooting the crumb who murdered the bum she wanted to marry. It would come in the third act, and need a lot of street level profundity. Because working girls never get a break. That’s what sells popcorn, baby. That’s screenwriting 101.
I put fresh paper into the Olivetti, and started to type. I was going to nail it. It got this way sometimes, when things were wrapping up. It was when I did my worst work. And the Studio boys loved every word of it—
A ROOMFUL OF COPS. THERE’S A DEAD MAN ON THE FLOOR. A woman stands in the centre of it, hands cuffed behind her back. It’s 8 a.m. and she’s wearing a cheap evening dress with a wilting corsage. She’s got on her bravest face. She knows it’s over for her. And maybe she likes it that way. She talks to a detective.
(Mock pride and courage in her voice.) Sure, I loved him. And it wasn’t just infatuation, neither. Nah, it was real love. The kind that sticks to a girl like bug splat on a windshield. The kind of love that gets into her shoe on a rainy day and rubs up against her toe, and causes open sores that get all full of pus that makes squishy sounds when she walks around.
That’s the kinda love I’m talking about. The kind a dame should be able to take to the bank, but she can’t because they don’t take love at the bank. You take love to the bank and the guard’ll wrestle you to the ground and kick you in the ribs. Not because he’s bad. But because he can’t get another job. Because his parents could only afford to send his older sister to barber college. And that’s the way the world is. A girl gets all covered in bug guts, her shoes make squishy noises and her ribs get kicked in by a bank guard named Chico.
And sure, love’s for chumps. But so’s brushing your teeth with a screwdriver. And most people don’t do that. Not unless they’re screwy, or somethin’. But they all fall in love. Like Cupid’s holdin’ a gun to their heads. Like they can’t just say no, love ain’t for me. I’d rather eat a kitten on toast.
Golly, do these handcuffs have to be so tight? It’s not like I’m gettin’ paid for this.
Yeah, I loved him. But he didn’t understand our fiduciary relationship. I guess that’s why he got all sloppy over me. And that was wrong from the start. Because a girl like me’s trouble with a capital “T”. Yeah, I know it. I see it in my face when I look in the mirror at night, when I’ve got one of them blind zits that kinda hurt, but you can’t pop ‘em, but you try, and they get all swollen and red, and it ends up looking like you gotta apple stapled to your forehead.
So now I’m gonna get the chair. Sure, I know it. It’s been comin’ a long time. What chance has a dame like me got, anyway? Me with my squishy shoes and busted ribs. And the way guys forget to be fiduciary round me. Hell, I was born to fry in the chair. Yeah, put that on my tombstone, BORN TO FRY. That’ll give ‘em something to think about, you bet.
Well, I guess we gotta go now. It’s prison chow and a cellmate named Butch for me from now on. I won’t squawk. I’ll go willingly. Because I’m little people. And little people can take it on the chin, and laugh about it. HA! Sure, I shot the nincompoop. And I’d do it again. Because learning from your mistakes is for squares. And my mother never raised no squares.
And my mother never raised no squares. Pure gold. Money in the bank.